February 13, 2009

Utah lawmakers discuss ‘support animals’

Utah legislators are considering a change to the state law governing emotional support animals that accompany their owners to businesses and schools.

State Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said changes in law two years ago failed to differentiate between animals that accompany owners for emotional benefits and certified service animals such as guide dogs, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Friday.

If you have a note from a marriage counselor that says you need to have a cat with you because you're so stressed not having a companion -- that meets the (current) requirement, Dayton said.

Dayton has proposed a new bill, SB173, that would differentiate between the categories of animals. State Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, the sponsor of the 2007 therapy animal bill, said he discussed possible methods of accommodating therapy animals elsewhere in Utah law with Dayton.

What I don't want to have happen is (Dayton's) bill throws the baby out with the bath water, he said.

Critics of allowing emotional support animals into stores and schools have cited shedding, messes and intimidation as problems caused by the pets.

You have to know when a customer is walking through a food store with a lizard, that doesn't give other customers the kind of assurances that they come to expect, said Jim Olsen, the president of the Utah Food Industry Association.